Prohibition Enacted! Let’s Drink!

Prohibition 4On January 16, 1920, National Prohibition went into effect in the United States. The Eighteenth Amendment had been ratified, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Or was there?

The Volstead Act passed Congress October 28, 1919, despite President Wilson’s veto. The country was to be “dry” and the production and sale of intoxicating beverages, as outlined by the act, was illegal. The result? Speakeasies, bootlegging, and the rise of violent organized crime. Tens of thousands of speakeasies opened in New York alone. Canadian whiskey was smuggled across the border, and “bathtub gin” was a byword of the era. Bartenders were suddenly out of a job as were everyone working in the distilling business. And do you think the gangsters selling the illegal hooch were paying taxes?


Harry Craddock behind the bar

Harry Craddock was one bartender who, after his job was made redundant by Prohibition, packed his suitcase and sailed across the pond to establish himself at the Savoy Hotel in London. He published his Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 while Prohibition was still in effect. So, here is Harry’s thumb at the nose at Prohibition.

Prohibition Cocktail

1 ½ oz Gin 

1 ½ oz Kina Lillet (Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano)

2 dashes Orange Juice

1 dash Apricot Brandy

Shake (or stir) with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express a piece of lemon peel over the drink, twist, and drop in. Smile.

Prohibition 2True apricot brandy can be hard to come by and, unless you are planing to drink the rest of the bottle sometime during your lifetime after you use the required one dash, may not prove to be cost effective. Apricot liqueurs and syrups are also available or, if you are feeling crafty, you could make your own. There are plenty of recipes on the web and the process is quite simple, requiring only a modicum of patience. You simply dice dried apricots and throw them in a jar with a screw-on lid, add enough vodka (not flavored) to cover, screw on the lid, and let it sit at room temperature for a week. If it is too weak, let it sit longer, testing every other day until to desired strength. Strain the liquid through fine mesh sieve, then cheesecloth, add simple syrup to taste and you are done. Store in the refrigerator. If you can’t be bothered with any of the above, try a dash of Grand Marnier which is, of course, orange, but will still work nicely with the other ingredients.

Prohibition proved to be one of the biggest failures of the U.S. Congress (surprise, surprise). Thank goodness they rectified it with the Twenty-first Amendment. Happy Days!